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United Nations Daily Highlights, 98-02-26

United Nations Daily Highlights Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: The United Nations Home Page at <> - email:


Thursday, 26 February 1998

This daily news round-up is prepared by the Central News Section of the Department of Public Information. The latest update is posted at approximately 6:00 PM New York time.


  • Chief of United Nations weapons inspectors welcomes Secretary- General's agreement with Iraq.
  • Jayantha Dhanapala of Sri Lanka named Commissioner to head group inspecting presidential sites in Iraq.
  • Welcoming end of military junta's rule in Sierra Leone, Security Council says Government must be restored.
  • Security Council members say there is no alternative to a negotiated settlement in Burundi.
  • Security Council says UN would provide assistance to Somalia if faction leaders request it.
  • World Bank says Central America is entering a new period of economic confidence and political stability.
  • Bosnian Ambassador asks Security Council to probe Srebrenica prisoners in Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.
  • Food and Agriculture Organization says agriculture is important for food security in China.

The chief of the United Nations Special Commission (UNSCOM) charged with overseeing the disarmament of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction has welcomed the agreement reached between that country and Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

Referring to the memorandum of understanding signed in Baghdad on Monday, Ambassador Richard Butler said, "I welcome it -- I view it as strengthening UNSCOM in the conduct of its work in Iraq." Speaking to reporters in New York on Thursday, he noted that the text contained details regarding UNSCOM's access to presidential sites within Iraq. Mr. Butler said the new arrangements would give UNSCOM access to the presidential sites in Iraq.

The Memorandum was a strong agreement, he said. It should not be evaluated so much by the fine print -- although that held up to examination -- but by the "thumbprints" on it, which were those of the Secretary-General and the President of Iraq. Ambassador Butler said he looked forward to implementing the agreement as soon as possible, and to testing in practice what was written on paper. He earnestly hoped Iraq would provide the full cooperation it had pledged in the agreement, and that the disarmament portion of the Special Commission's work in Iraq could be completed soon, so that all that remained would be the long-term monitoring.

"This is an agreement that makes me and my team feel strong, provided Iraq keeps its side of the bargain. I earnestly hope it does; we're willing to go out there and do it," he concluded.

Jayantha Dhanapala of Sri Lanka, the United Nations Under-Secretary- General for Disarmament Affairs, has been named as the Commissioner heading the special group that will conduct the inspections of the eight presidential sites in Iraq.

The new assignment is a result of the memorandum of understanding brokered by United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who announced Mr. Dhanapala's appointment on Thursday. According to a United Nations Spokesman, Mr. Dhanapala will continue to be based in New York and will continue to head the Disarmament Department, but will travel to Baghdad as necessary.

Mr. Dhanapala began serving as Under Secretary-General for Disarmament Affairs on 1 February. Prior to that, he was Diplomat-in- Residence at the Center for Non-Proliferation Studies of the Monterey Institute of International Studies in California. At the invitation of the Government of Australia, he served as a member of the Canberra Commission, a group of 17 eminent international personalities who published an influential report on nuclear disarmament in 1996.

The 59-year old diplomat served as President of the 1995 Review and Extension Conference of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. From 1984 to 1987, Ambassador Dhanapala served as Sri Lanka's representative to the Conference on Disarmament. In 1987, he was appointed Director of the Geneva-based United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research.

The Security Council on Thursday welcomed the end of the rule by the military junta in Sierra Leone, which took power in a coup d'etat on 25 May 1997.

In a statement read out by Council President Denis Dangue Rewaka of Gabon on behalf of the members, the Council stressed the imperative need to immediately restore the democratically elected Government of President Tejan Kabbah. Gravely concerned at the continued violence in Sierra Leone, the Council called for an urgent end to the fighting.

The Council commended the important role played by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), and encouraged its Military Observer Group (ECOMOG) to proceed in its efforts to foster peace and stability in Sierra Leone.

On behalf of the Council, Ambassador Rewaka expressed deep regret at the "violence, loss of life and property and immense suffering" undergone by the people of Sierra Leone.

All parties in Sierra Leone were called upon to work towards peace, stability and national reconciliation. The Council also called for an immediate end to all reprisal killings and related violence in the country. It condemned the taking of hostages by former members of the deposed junta, and called for the immediate release of all international personnel and others who have been detained or held hostage.

Ambassador Rewaka said the Council remained "deeply concerned about the serious and fragile humanitarian situation in the country". It called for urgent assistance to Sierra Leone and neighbouring States affected by the crisis.

The Council also expressed its readiness to terminate the sanctions regime it imposed on Sierra Leone last October.

Members of the Security Council on Thursday said that there was no alternative to a negotiated settlement to the conflict in Burundi.

In a statement to the press on behalf of the members, Council President Denis Dangue Rewaka of Gabon expressed the Council's concern at the situation in Burundi.

Council members deplored the lack of progress in the search for peace and urged the parties to resume their internal dialogue with the view to continuing the peace process. The Council also welcomed the tripartite agreement signed in Kampala, Uganda on 21 February.

The parties in Burundi were urged to grant safe and unrestricted access for humanitarian assistance. The Council appealed to Member States and international organizations to provide humanitarian and economic assistance.

Members of the Council expressed support for all regional efforts to promote peace in Burundi and encouraged the Secretary-General to provide every assistance in order to achieve a final settlement of the matter.

Members of the Security Council on Thursday reaffirmed the readiness of the United Nations to assist in coordinating the various efforts to promote reconciliation in Somalia if the faction leaders explicitly request such assistance.

In a statement to the press read out by Council President Denis Dangue Rewaka of Gabon on behalf of the members, the Council commended United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan for his continuing interest and engagement in the Somali peace process.

Expressing concern at the slow pace of the peace process in Somalia, Council members hoped that the Baidoa National Reconciliation Conference would be held at the end of March. They encouraged all factions to work together towards that end.

Members of the Security Council also expressed appreciation to humanitarian agencies and organizations for their work in Somalia and encouraged them to continue their efforts.

The World Bank said on Thursday that Central America and Panama were entering a new period of economic and political stability.

Speaking on the eve of the departure of the Bank's President, James Wolfensohn, for a six-country tour, World Bank officials told a press conference in Washington D.C. that Central America was embracing democratic government and economic modernization. They added that the region was moving quickly to tackle widespread poverty.

"The primary challenge in Central America is that of inclusion", said Ian Bannon, Lead Economist for the Bank's Central America Department. According to Mr. Bannon, much of the conflict in the region was traceable to highly polarized societies where a small number of families owned most of the national wealth and the majority of people lived in dire poverty.

He said that the Bank recognized that unless everyone, especially the poor and the indigenous peoples of Central America, shared more inclusively in the benefits of national social and economic life, lasting development would be impossible. "This premise is central to the Bank's work in the region and explains why more than 50 per cent of the Bank's projects are devoted to human and social development", Mr. Bannon added.

Mr. Wolfensohn will visit Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama to hear development concerns of governments, the private sector, members of civil society, and, in particular, people in rural areas. He will also assess the effectiveness of World Bank projects and discuss with government leaders plans for future lending and technical support.

The Permanent Representative of Bosnia and Herzegovina has asked the Security Council to investigate evidence of Srebrenica prisoners being held in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.

Briefing the press on Thursday, Ambassador Muhamed Sacirbey read out a letter he was sending to the President of the Security Council. In that letter, Mr. Sacirbey stated that two independent sources had reported that there might be as many as 40 to 50 Srebrenica citizens being held in a prison in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.

Mr. Sacirbey said that the prisoners were being held in an isolated area in the Serbian town of Sremska Motrovica and were apparently not registered with the International Committee of the Red Cross. He said two witnesses were also held prisoner. The representative of Bosnia and Herzegovina said it was not clear to what extent the authorities in Belgrade were aware of those circumstances.

While the allegation that citizens of Srebrenica were still being held prisoner seemed unusual or improbable, Mr. Sacirbey said, every effort should be made to find them and to discover what might have happened to them after their capture.

Mr. Sarcirbey said that according to the relevant resolutions that designated Srebrenica a safe area, the Security Council still had a legal interest in the fate of all those who were subjected to its protection. He urged the Council to investigate the situation in order to secure the safety of those individuals that might still be alive.

The United Nations food agency said on Thursday that development of agriculture continued to be important for food security and eradication of poverty in the People's Republic of China.

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said despite the rapid development of non-agricultural activities in those areas, agriculture continued to be a primary source of livelihood for a large segment of the population.

With an estimated population of 1.2 billion people, China has 561 million economically active people in rural areas representing 80 per cent of the total number of 697 million economically active people.

The Rome-based United Nations agency was presenting the preliminary results of the first agricultural census in China. According to FAO, the Chinese Government decided ten years ago to conduct its first National Agricultural Census and deployed approximately seven million trained counters who interviewed over 214 million households at the cost of about $195 million.

In addition, FAO received a contribution of $16.4 million to implement projects for technical assistance, the training of statisticians, fellowships and office equipment.

For information purposes only - - not an official record

From the United Nations home page at <> - email:

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